Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Law Revision – In tune with the times

Author: Hadyn Huggins Published in The Vincentian: 05/19/2011

Dr. Gonsalves, also responsible for the ministerial portfolios of National Security and Legal Affairs, was speaking at an official ceremony on Tuesday at the House of Assembly Chambers in Kingstown, to launch the the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines revised edition 2009.

Dr. Gonsalves noted that Campbell Q. C. completed the work of Arthur Williams and Grafton Isaacs, both former Attorneys General under the St. Vincent Labour Party (SVLP), under whose leadership a lot of work was done at the AG’s office to get the 1990 law ready.

“I want to say that Mr. Campbell of the then government (NDP) did this country a great service by having the laws revised in 1990, and I give full credit to the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. Parnel Campbell Q.C. That is the base on which we have built this revised edition,”  the Prime Minister told a packed Chambers, including members of the legal fraternity and Police High Command.

What obtained in the past

Prior to the 2009 law revision exercise, the laws of SVG were last revised under the Law Revision Act 1987, titled the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Revised Edition 1990, which consisted of eight bound volumes.  Prior to this, the last edition was 1926.

Dr. Gonsalves, a lawyer by profession, reflected on the situation in the past, giving young lawyers an insight as to what it was like to be a lawyer then.

“Now, many lawyers will know this. You had the publication for each particular law after 1926 and certainly after 1990, and then at the end of the year, you put them within one bundle volume for that particularly year.

“Now it was fairly easy to get single copies because they would print them at the time but you would not know always when you had the laws assented to, and sometimes you may miss a gazette or two in which they are published, and it is only after they are published we know that the law becomes operational.”

Dr. Gonsalves recalled further:  “So what many of us did,  I for instance, I had somebody at the printery. I wouldn’t say that he was on a retainer, but I facilitated him in practical ways to ensure that I got the laws on an ongoing basis. Those who were not wise enough to do that suffered a great disadvantage.”

 He added, “Sometime they only printed limited copies of the bound volumes at the end of each year and sometimes they printed them six months late. They put them together six months late, so you were at a disadvantage.”

The new system

Dr. Gonsalves explained that with the new system, everything is going to be put on, and as soon as the laws are assented by virtue of a contract with the publishing company LexisNexis, USA, they will appear on the website. Copies would still be available at the Printery since not everybody has access to the computer and the internet.

The PM disclosed that the cost to LexisNexis is $1.4 million and $300,000 to get 50 volumes ready for the judges.

As an innovation from the previous edition which was printed and bound in hard covers, the laws in the present edition are arranged in subject areas and are published in 15 loose leaf sets. They will be updated annually.

The laws are expected to be operational from June 1, 2011.

The 2009 law revision process was spearheaded by the Attorney General’s Chambers in compliance with the Law Revision Act (Number 9 of 2009) which makes provision for the revision, consolidation and the creation of an electronic database of all existing laws of SVG.

Published in 2010, the Laws of SVG Revised edition 2009 represents the compilation of each statute and subsidiary legislation in operation in SVG as at January 1, 2009.

The Laws of SVG Revised Edition 2009, once proclaimed, will supersede the laws of SVG Revised Edition 1990. 

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